Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The Murder Capital - Dublin Guinness Storehouse - 30th June 2020


The loosening of restrictions in their native Dublin allowed The Murder Capital to regroup and perform a social-distanced audience-free set from the Storehouse at the Guinness factory on Tuesday night with views over their home city and the streets on which the songs from their debut When I Have Fears were lived out.

"I've seen the future, it's murder" wrote Leonard Cohen on the title track of his 1992 album. He may as well have been talking about the huge void that's been left in the lives of us and I guess most of the people reading this by the lack of live shows due to COVID-19 and its decimation of our calendars. The Murder Capital were more affected than most - off the back of a breakthrough UK tour they'd headed off to conquer North America before being cut off almost before they'd got started. For a band that thrives on stage, in a dark tightly-packed room where they make their connection to their audience through their life-affirming songs, the inability to perform must have felt like the very worst sort of purgatory. 

It's a surreal situation. In normal times we'd have had a few pre-gig Guinness of our own and be pressed up close to the stage waiting for the sound of Burnt Out's Dear James to strike up to warn of their impending arrival. Tonight we have a sofa (do you sit at one of these live stream gigs or do you get as close to the TV as you can) and the blinds drawn and lights down to try and recreate some sort of gig atmosphere. It doesn't work totally of course - you can't replicate the intensity, the shared experience of being in a room with like-minded souls where you can look the band in the eye and feel the intense connection that The Murder Capital create each night. 

With Dublin still in the last throes of daylight behind them, you sense the band are sensing the surreal nature of the event, cautious as to how close together they can get, an artificial and unnatural distance that they break down partly as their set progresses and with James strolling around searching, trying to make sense of this impersonal situation that they've been cast into.

The set is, like their recent tour, the whole of When I Have Fears, still our most-played album despite now rapidly approaching its first birthday, minus How The Streets Adore Me Now. They start with Green And Blue and sat on the sofa at home, it feels like watching a session - except the explosive energy of the performances in similar situations last year isn't there for the first couple of minutes - like they're feeling their way in this new weird world we find ourselves in. Musically they're as ever right on the money, the number of ways in which they subtly twist and turn these songs each time they play them is testament to why they stand out so far from the crowd and even the scene the media and elements of their fan base seem so intent to lump them into.


Close your eyes, like you do at the most intense moments of the gig, and that climatic intro to For Everything might just be happening in the same room assuming you're using your best piece of audio kit to enjoy this. And whilst it'd be impossible to recreate the tension that holds together "The Slow Dances" and On Twisted Ground, their stark emotional beauty still resonates on a big television screen - and if this is all we can have right now, we'll take it with open arms.

There's a technical glitch which means we lose from the end of On Twisted Ground to half way through Don't Cling To Life, but the energy has changed while we're out of range. "Not if I had my way" is James' final word as a response to "there's nothing on the other side" as the hurricane hits home and James looks to the ceiling, arm raised, for an answer before whispering something in Gabe's ear. 

As they loosen up Feeling Fades packs the rawest of punches even without James and us losing ourselves in the moment and him surfing over our heads - they group together around Diarmuid's drums then lose themselves in their own moments. And in this weird new world where the lens of a camera is the eyes of a thousand people it feels like we are making the absolute best of a bad hand of cards.

More Is Less takes us back in our minds to the heady days of February and James in the crowd among us, wild moments where you can switch off everything else and lose yourself in the moment. They finish with the album's goodbye Love Love Love, James walking to the back of the room to look out over the city as Diarmuid's drums provide the canvas for the song's drama to be played out on. 

The interactions might be from the chat screen on You Tube, most of which can be safely scrolled past, rather than real life communication - which is what The Murder Capital are all about - but there's a moment where someone touches a nerve by telling them that it's "great to see the band I love, in the place I love, in the city I love" and James tells him he's going to steal that for a song.

Live webcast gigs might be all we have for now. And as it looks increasingly like 2021 before we can jump on a train or a plane to see The Murder Capital, or anyone else for that matter, then it's moments like these that will get us through the next six months. Contrary to the song, there is something on the other side. 

The Murder Capital's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

The band asked for any donations for the show to be made to MASI who are supporting immigrants in Ireland in their fight for the right to work and education.
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